Sunday, March 18, 2012
[Start][Previously on]

The Shadow of Heidegger

I suppose a disciple of Heidegger should not write (without noticeable bother) something like: the events decided for me. Let’s suppose I suppress that phrase. It belongs in an adventure story. An adventure story is a factical story, a story of incidents that involve the characters and push them towards different existential answers: the heroism of the heroes, the cowardice of the cowards, that treason of the traitors, the torture of the torturers, and perhaps the love of those can afford themselves that rare or impossible luxury. An adventure story – by emphasizing the factical: things are always happening –the characters become things: the heroes are heroes; cowards, cowards; traitors, traitors and so forth. The events change but not the characters. Every event prefigures its response, given that it’s prefigured in the character. The hero, in an adventure story, is. To expect something to change we must expect the exterior, the factical, to change; never the hero. What I’ll now narrate for you, in these lines here, is something else; a philosophical story? The hero is not. How could I tell you I was? I am a projection thrown in the world. I am a pure nothing. Am I, at this point in the story, who I was at the beginning? A philosophical story would be, then, that of the transformations of the hero, that of his relation with the world, all ek-sistent, thrown in him. In danger, remember? It isn’t the factical that changes. It’s the being-there. It’s the being-with. They change (and here I may be simplifying my language) the world and man. A philosophical story is the adventure of one man in the world, about how he changes in that world, and how that world changes him. All this makes it so that man and the world are, happen, event themselves in turn. A philosophical story is a story of the being of man and the being of the world. An ontological story. A story, which is a story, narration, because it expresses what is to come (the happening, the event, the eventualizing) of an inseparable relation: that of man with the world. You cannot have one without the other. In summary, if the events decided for me it was because my project was already decided by those events. Without knowing, I expected them. Don’t look for, in this, any precedents, but instead simultaneities.

But as you can see, I triumphed: a disciple of Heidegger can easily write that novelistic phrase. He can easily write: the events decided for me. Because he can just as easily write: I was disposed to choose for them.

What did I want? To leave Germany.

What did Germany, unexpectedly, want? That I leave.

In 1943 our nation was still sure it would win the war. The university authorities called me. They were worried about the weak presence of German philosophy in the Paris that our troops had conquered with, at least to me, excessive ease. They proposed to me that I present a cycle of conferences on whatever I wanted. I proposed Hegel. They accepted. Someone said: “The French die for Hegel. An exiled Russian, perhaps a little crazy, gave some seminars on that damned question of the master and the slave. The bigwigs from the Sorbonne took part”. I asked, not without genuine disquiet or, let’s use something stronger, fear, if they really thought I was worthy of such a task: to strengthen German philosophy in a country that so diligently and with such talent, studied it. The rector of the university (whose name isn’t relevant to this story) threw (yes, Martin, threw) a laugh. He drowned in his jubilant saliva, coughed, blushed and even shed tears. Finally, he said: “Professor Müller, don’t worry about the French philosophers. Go and humiliate them. They could spend their lives studying German philosophers. But you are something that they will never be. You are German, Professor Müller.”


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